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Full text of "Verdict On India"

-50                                    VERDICT  OX IXBIA
old blighter/ they say to themselves, "not much of an oil-painting
to look at, of course, but still he's got guts and anyway it's hard
luck on him being in gaol and all that.5
This analysis of the minds of the Smiths may be considered as
an insult to the bright new electorate of Britain. But is it ? I have
talked to many hundreds of young British serving men in India
who should have been at least as well informed about the country
as their brothers and sisters at home, and very few of them had
even the most rudimentary ideas of the history, economj-, or
geography of the country, and scarcely one had ever heard of
any Indian personality but Gandhi. They did not know the
difference between a Hindu and a Muslim, nor which community
was in the majority, they had no conception of the methods by
which the country was governed, and though they knew—most
of them !—that Lord YTavell was the Viceroy, they had no idea
either of his powers or his limitations. Their ignorance was
boundless—officers as well as men—yet they., remember, in com-
parison with their relations at home, are authorities on the India
question! It was an illuminating sidelight on the workings of^,
democracy, and it made on,e wonder, not for the first time, if
there was really much point in having popular elections at all.
The curious thing about the apathy of the Smiths, and of their
sons and brothers in India, is that they never for one minute ask
themselves how quitting India is going to affect them, in their
homes and their pockets. They have been told by Mr. Churchill
that two out of every ten Englishmen gain their living, directly or
indirectly, from the Indian connection, and they have an uneasy
recollection that on more than one occasion in history Mr.
Churchill has hit the nail on the head rather more squarely than
some of his contemporaries. Yet the Smiths, through their
representatives in Parliament (particularly in, the working-class
districts) blandly applaud the catchword 'Quit India'—on the
assumption that it is somehow or other connected with 'progress3
—the cnew world'—Sir William Beveridge, Professor Laski, J.
B. Priestley, old Uncle Tom Driberg and all.
Mind you, I believe that if the Smiths really made up their
minds that we ought to quit, on purely moral reasons, they would
vote for quitting, even though they knew that they were voting